Addressing the Alarming Increase in Ship Fire Safety Deficiencies

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Survitec, a global provider of survival technology solutions, has raised concerns about the dangers posed by inadequate maintenance, testing, and inspection of ship fire safety systems. Their new white paper, released at the Posidonia tradeshow, highlights a worrying trend: an increase in fire-safety-related deficiencies found during Port State Control Inspections, leading to more ship detentions.

Statistics Highlighting the Severity of the Issue

Fire remains a leading cause of major shipping incidents, responsible for over 20% of total losses and being the most expensive cause of marine insurance claims. The Paris MoU reported the highest level of fire safety deficiencies in a decade in 2022, and the Tokyo MoU noted a rise in detentions with 15,562 deficiencies reported in 2023. Analysts have identified a 17% year-on-year increase in shipboard fires, supported by reports from Survitec’s network of certified technicians documenting severe faults needing immediate correction.

Economic Impact on Fire Safety Standards

The economic downturn and cost-cutting measures post-COVID have negatively impacted fire safety. Some shipowners and operators attempt to save costs by maintaining and inspecting safety equipment themselves, leading to basic errors and oversights that become apparent only during failed inspections or actual fires.

Examples of Common Fire Safety Failures

Survitec provides examples of common issues found, such as blockages in firefighting systems, incorrect or poorly fitted parts, and the use of low-quality components that fail quickly. A notable incident involved a vessel with a blocked foam firefighting system due to a protective cap left on a new foam pump inlet. Another example highlighted issues in CO2 systems, where hydraulic hoses were mistakenly used instead of high-pressure hoses, leading to potential bursts under pressure.

The Role of Accredited Service Providers

Yohannes emphasizes the disparity in service quality among providers. Approval stamps are sometimes applied to systems and appliances that should not pass inspection, posing significant risks. Visible issues like rust on a valve or fire extinguisher can be identified easily, but other problems may go unnoticed until they cause catastrophic failures.

New Challenges with Alternative Fuels and Lithium-Ion Batteries

The introduction of alternative fuels and the transportation of lithium-ion batteries present new fire risks and safety challenges. Ensuring that fire systems and equipment are maintained and tested as per SOLAS, IMO, and FSS code mandates is crucial.

Call for Improved Oversight and Quality Control

Yohannes concludes that current practices need to be reviewed to determine if more oversight, governance, and quality control procedures are required to ensure crew and vessel safety. Shipowners and operators must rely on accredited service partners they can trust and have confidence in the approval system.

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Source: Survitec

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